A poetry analysis of "Church Going" by Phillip Larkin can first look at the title, meaning, message and themes of the poem. The free "thinking aloud" tone of the poem is also worth a mention in an essay, as it contributes to the reader experience of the poem.
Firstly, the title is worthy of examination. Deceptively simple, the title "Church Going" is very clever as it has two interpretations. The first refers to the act of weekly worship, usually on a Sunday, and Phillip Larkin will go on to consider the traditions and future potential of this practice. The second interpretation in the word "going" refers to the action of the buildings and institutions themselves and which way they will be going in the future. Larkin lays out his thoughts about this as the poem develops, and his prognosis is not good. He views the churches as falling into disrepair as society moves on from blind adherence to religion, and wonders where it will all lead. He imagines in his mind's eye, the churches as ruins with weeds and grass growing up between the floor slabs and wonders whether anyone will want to buy them and what use they might put the buildings to.
The tone of the poem engages the reader in a sort of conversation with the poet as he thinks aloud in the inhibiting silence of the musty old building. We are deliberately told that, even for Larkin himself, his visit to the church is just an add-on, a convenient stop-off on a cycling trip. With the first words of the poem being:"Once I am sure there's nothing going on I step inside, letting the door thud shut. "Larkin puts readers in a particular spot in time, as if they too, had come along with the poet for the ride, and are breaking their journey with him. He uses a curiously detached and objective tone, however, as if he is an outsider in the church looking in at the practice of religious observation as if he has no role in it. He emphasizes this with the word "hatless" as he disregards this mark of respect. Language such as "brownish" and "musty" illustrate his view that the church is past its best, and may one day be totally obsolete, and contribute to the themes of Time, Religion, Function and Society.
Overall, Phillip Larkin's message seems to be that in the future churches will either decay into ruins or be put to other more materialistic uses such as homes or retail outlets. Even in the present time, he wonders whether their only authority and atmosphere of awe comes from the fact that there are so many dead in the vicinity.